This Week in English | November 22-28, 2021

As we head into a holiday week dedicated to the performative utterance of offering thanks, it feels timely to begin this week’s bulletin by thanking all of you who receive, read, and sometimes contribute to This Week in English. Whether you’re a first semester English major, an advanced undergraduate, a member of our faculty, a student in our MA program, a staff member, an alum, and/or a friend to the department, we’re grateful to share a community committed to reading and writing with you! This installment celebrates undergraduate research, offers a glimpse into a fiction workshop, and invites you to upcoming talks on Virginia Woolf (by Michael Swacha) and  inequality in STEM education (by Heather Falconer), as well as to a birthday party for Emily Dickinson organized by Kathleen Ellis. If you have an item of interest for the next one, don’t hesitate to share.   

Meet McGillicuddy Humanities Center Undergraduate Fellow Sherralyn Robbins 

English major Sherralyn Robbins learned last week that she had been selected for a McGillicuddy Humanities Center Fellowship in the spring and fall of 2022. Robbins intends to investigate  “how one [can] gain agency and strengthen their identity in academic settings without conforming to dominant academic discourse in ways that compromise cultural and gender diversity.” She continues:

The goal for this project is to compose a three-part guide to discuss the long-term historical significance of gender bias in academic writing instruction, and how it impacts writers today. Providing a personal narrative, critical analysis, and historical perspective, I will provide contemporary insight into the gendered and linguistically biased structure of academia, and the implications this embodies.

Writing Center director Paige Mitchell will provide mentorship on the project, which provides funding of up to $4000 per semester in support of undergraduate research.

Robbins is not the only person affiliated with English to receive recognition for their work in the Center’s fall round of awards. Keep an eye out for profiles of other recipients in future installments of the bulletin.

A Glimpse into the Graduate Fiction Workshop Led by Hollie Adams 

Dr. Hollie Adams is offering fiction workshops at the introductory, intermediate, and graduate levels this fall. Here’s a glimpse into a recent meeting of ENG 507:

Last Wednesday in ENG 507, the graduate fiction workshop, we welcomed two distinguished guests, writers Katie Lattari and Morgan Talty, to class, both of whom read during the New Writing Series event at the beginning of November. Katie and Morgan talked with the class about their revision processes and their respective roads to publication—Lattari’s novel Dark Things I Adore was published this past September and Talty’s short story collection Night of the Living Rez will be published July 2022. In advance of the class, Morgan shared the first draft of one of his stories and then its final, published version as it exists in The Georgia Review so that we might see his revision efforts first-hand and ask him why he made the changes he did. A lively Q+A followed their talks with students asking about querying agents, how to be more (and less) self-critical, whether you can make a living as a writer, and how to make use of feedback. The graduate students later reported back that they found the class visit incredibly useful and illuminating and appreciated the candor and transparency of Katie and Morgan. 

Michael Swacha on Virginia Woolf’s The Waves Next Friday

On Friday, December 3 at 3:00 pm in the Maples room 116 (Weisz Room), the Department of Philosophy Colloquium Series presents a talk by Dr. Michael Swacha, part-time lecturer in English and Philosophy, titled “Reconciling the One and the Many: On the Possibility of Fragmentation and Perception in Virginia Woolf and the New Physics.” In this talk, Swacha explores the epistemological affinities between Virginia Woolf’s 1931 novel The Waves and new discoveries in physics during the early twentieth century, all in order to posit the potential that modernist notions of fragmentation and perception hold for opening and imagining new ways of knowing, existing, and relating to one another. Swacha is teaching The Waves to first-semester undergraduates this fall as part of his course on “Existentialism and Literature” (Philosophy 104).

Heather Falconer on the Impact of Inequity on STEM Writing Instruction

On Monday afternoon, December 6, the Rise Center colloquia series will host Dr. Heather Falconer for a presentation on “Rethinking the Impact of Inequality on Stem Writing Instruction.

In this presentation, Dr. Falconer will examine the impact of systemic bias and discourse expectations on underrepresented college students in science as a factor that can push students from, or pull them toward, the discipline. Drawing on the experiences of four female undergraduate research students, she’ll examine how performativity expectations and microaggressions relating to scientific practice and discourse disrupted the students’ sense of competency as they participated in a college undergraduate research program. The presentation includes a discussion of implications for persistence, and applications for classroom and undergraduate research settings. The event takes place in Barrows 119 on Monday, December 6, between 3:00-4:00 and can also be accessed remotely via Zoom.

Heather Falconer joined our department this fall as an Assistant Professor of Professional and Technical Writing. In addition to this role, Dr. Falconer is a Co-Editor for the Perspectives on Writing book series, Co-Chair of the Research and Publications Committee of the Association for Writing Across the Curriculum, and serves on multiple editorial and regional boards. As a Writing Studies scholar, her research focuses on the intersections of culture, discipline, and pedagogy, with a special emphasis on creating inclusive educational spaces. Dr. Falconer’s research has appeared in journals such as Written Communication, The WAC Journal, and the Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, as well as multiple edited collections.

Celebrate Emily Dickinson on December 7

The fifteenth annual Dickinson Birthday Poetry Reading, organized by Kathleen Ellis, will be held at 4:30 on December 7, 2021. This year’s event is sponsored by the Honors College, and will be held on Zoom rather than in person in the University Bookstore as in years past (look for a link in the next newsletter). Ellis invites you to join UMaine faculty, students, staff, poets, and friends reading a Dickinson poem or an original poem in Dickinson’s style. Email her here if you’d like to sign up.

This Week in English 114 was sent to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the department on Monday, November 22, 2021. If you would rather not receive these weekly bulletins, please reply with <unsubscribe> in your subject line. Earlier installments are archived on our website. If you’re on Facebook, please consider joining the newly formed English Department Group.

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